An apology is meaningless if the words are not then followed by actions of penance. In America, the driving principle behind the criminal justice system is that of rehabilitation. The goal of incarceration is two-fold; to punish the crime and to correct the behavior. A prison term itself means nothing if the former convict falls prey to recidivism. It is only if the criminal emerges on the other side as a changed man that society is willing to forgive the sins of the past.
Tyron Edwards famously stated “right actions for the future are the best apologies for the wrong ones in the past.” This is a philosophical statement that affirms the idea of the duplicitous nature of mankind; that we as a species tend to say one thing while doing another. Edwards is arguing that only by aligning our moral compass with the physical deeds we perform can we hope to truly atone for our mistakes. There is another old idiom that states “practice makes perfect.” As such, we may only perfect ourselves through true and honest practices. Words alone have no value. A man may apologize to escape the tension of a moment but if he does not engage in the active practice of atonement he is doomed to find himself yet again in the tense situation he thought to use his words to escape. This exemplifies the idea of yet another philosophical idiom; “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Society will always place higher stick in deeds than words. One need only look to the media portrayal of cultural idols to find this to be true. One mistake, if not properly a toned for with a change in actual behavior, can lead to that individual’s doom in terms of relevance and cultural visibility. Celebrity is fleeting and actions carry more weight than words. It is why one man can go from being perceived entirely as a cocaine addled criminal to an A-list multimillionaire by practicing actual reform of his character while another may be endlessly mocked for paying lip service to the idea of penance while making no true change.
Society craves honesty. In order to truly prove the value of a statement it must be followed by faithful action. Society tends to operate on tangible evidence over faith alone. As the song goes, “deeds not words/you should have told the truth/you’re a liar and a traitor/and now we’ve got the proof.”